Recent years have seen a massive evolution in the striking styles of MMA’s most elite fighters. Here, we count five of the very best unorthodox strikers in the sport.
Before Lyoto Machida entered the UFC, boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai were viewed as the only legitimate striking styles by the vast majority of MMA fans, fighters and coaches. But, thanks to ‘The Dragon’, being a ‘karate guy’ is no longer a prerequisite to being a laughing stock.
Karate black belt Machida entered the UFC in 2007 with an 8-0 MMA record. What followed was a near-flawless run towards the UFC light heavyweight title which culminated in a KO win over champion Rashad Evans at UFC 98.
Since Machida proved the effectiveness of a much less common form of standup fighting inside the cage, there has been an influx of fighters at the highest level of MMA with strong bases in karate, taekwondo and other traditional styles, and many have achieved great success. One of the most notable of these is the next entry on our list…
The top UFC welterweight contender known as ‘Wonderboy’ saw his reputation reach an all-time high when he finished former champ Johny Hendricks with strikes this past weekend, but Thompson has been on the radars of MMA insiders for many, many years.
Originally brought to mainstream attention as a training partner of future UFC Hall of Famer Georges St Pierre, Thompson’s karate and kickboxing pedigree made him an instant hit when he won ‘Knockout of the Night’ honors in his UFC debut with a headkick KO of Dan Stittgen.
Already possessing a precision-based sideways style, Thompson has developed his grappling to go on a six-fight unbeaten UFC run and become one of the most dangerous fighters at 170lb.
Currently one of the hottest MMA prospects competing outside the UFC, England’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page is perhaps the very best in-cage showman in the sport.
Coming from a point-fighting background, Page realised at a young age that it was important to entertain the crowd in order to have fun and get noticed. What he developed was a flashy, exhibitionist style of striking that has made him one of Bellator’s most popular fighters. His pro MMA debut even went viral when he KO’d his opponent with a seemingly effortless tornado kick – a patented taekwondo technique.
Arguably the most prodigiously talented martial artist in MMA history, former UFC light heavyweight champ Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is fearless when it comes to trying out new, never-before-seen techniques inside the Octagon. Be it spinning elbows, headbutts to the stomach or front kicks to the knee, Jones will try anything and, if it works, he’ll stick with it.
Aside from a controversial disqualification early in his UFC career and legal troubles outside his professional life, nothing has been able to stop Jones’ unorthodox style and high fight IQ.
Nate & Nick Diaz
OK, so maybe we’re pushing the ‘5 of the Best’ boundaries by sticking in two fighters as one entry. But, in our defense, the Diaz brothers are basically the same fighter.
There may be other equally famous brotherhoods in MMA – Antonio Rogerio and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Frank and Ken Shamrock to name just a couple – but none have fighting styles so strikingly similar to one another as Nick and younger brother Nate. These two brash individuals have perfectly melded their high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu with an unorthodox, reckless but effective style of boxing – courtesy of coach Richard Perez – to reach the highest level of the lightweight (Nate) and welterweight (Nick) divisions.